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SRI LANKA: Who should be in the constitutional convention?

The making of a new Constitution through a constitutional convention is now being discussed in the community. This is against the privately-drafted Constitution through a group of lawyers which the Government intends to introduce in early 2022.

The difference between such a Constitution and one that is made with the participation of many groups and persons is that it will not only reflect the many problems that need to be solved in Sri Lanka but it will also provide the solutions coming from among the various sectors of the society itself.

Following are some persons who should necessarily be there in a constitutional convention.

Sri Lanka is traditionally and for now and the future based very much on its agriculture. The knowledge and the ideas about consolidating the agricultural aspect of the economy is an essential part of trying to develop a stable foundation for the economy as well as for the society in Sri Lanka. Thus, the agricultural experts in various associated fields should necessarily be a part of such a convention.

In the recent disputes, these experts have shown their capacity and also the understanding of how the agriculture sector in the country should be protected. With such expertise, there should also be representatives of farmers, who will represent their interests including their land rights, and the manner in which there should be State institutions which must deal with the issues of production, sale, and also consumer protection.

Another sector that should necessarily be involved in constitution making is the financial sector in the country. Among them are the Sri Lankan economists who have in the past decades shown their thorough understanding of the problems of the economy and ways to overcome the present crisis. It should also include financial experts who could help to develop a proper regulatory framework for finance in Sri Lanka which should be a major issue that should be considered in the making of a constitution.

Yet another sector that should be necessarily involved in constitution making is those who are dealing with accountability in various sectors. The Auditor General’s Department and also the former auditors and those who have expertise in this area are an essential element in the development of a stable system of finance and the control of it in the country.

We should also include those who monitor bribery and corruption. Their involvements are very essential in order to develop an effective corruption control system which should be recognised within the constitution.

Those involved in the law enforcement sectors and those whose expertise has grown around this are also very essential to ensure the proper law enforcement in the country. As it has been recognised that there is a tremendous failure of law enforcement, there should be expertise from within the Police and other sectors as well as from the society of persons who have gained knowledge of the development of an effective law enforcement aspect with guarantees of respect for the protection of individuals.

Still another sector that should be essentially there if there is going to be any effective constitutional governance in Sri Lanka is also the various sectors that represent various communities. There are sectors that represent the majority community as well as the sections that represent the minority communities such as Tamils, Muslims, and also the religious minorities. A society can hold together only on the basis of the principle of co-operation of all sectors of the society. Therefore, solving this problem that has troubled Sri Lanka over a long period should also be an integral part of the constitution making and this could be done only by opportunities for discourse between the communities themselves.

There should be necessarily persons representing the trade unions which are an essential component of safeguarding the interests of the working population. A constitution must necessarily provide opportunities for a just framework within which the disputes between the working people and the business sector could be settled in an atmosphere of justice and also with due regard to the basic rights of the various sectors of the working classes.

There should necessarily be representations of the educational sector which is a vital part of a nation’s life. There should be representatives who have expertise from school education as well as from the university sectors and also for the future development of the higher educational levels. This should include not only the professional experts but also the various sectors affected by that such as the students, teachers and also the parents.

Above is not an exhaustive list. It was meant to show that the expertise of lawyers is not at all the major contributor to the development of a constitution.

Furthermore, it should also not be left entirely to the politicians who have acquired rather dubious representations in the country.

If all sectors which have an interest in the country and the development of the country are brought together for a discourse which is genuine and open, Sri Lanka could develop a kind of infrastructure both in the economy as well as in the society, that could be reflected within the constitution by which a new beginning can be made for the future of the country.

Perhaps, a new Constitution with such a representation brought about through the constitutional convention may be the beginning of real independence in Sri Lanka.

An Article by the Asian Human Rights Commission

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